With the first dawn we drove the lazy boatmen to their barge, urging them alternately with money, entreaties, reproaches, and threats. The river was exceedingly swollen by late heavy rains, so that it was almost twice as wide, and quite as rapid, as usual. Our heavy ferry-boat was 'tracked' up it until it seemed possible for us to reach the other bank before the current swept us out to sea; but the appearance of the boat and men, and the utter uncertainty caused by a very thick fog, gave me no great hopes of reaching Concepcion in any reasonable time, though a vivid expectation of passing a few hours upon a sand-bank at the mouth of the river, if we escaped being hurried into the open sea. In this clumsily-built, flat-bottomed boat (a sort of large punt) were five horses, a troublesome young bull, six men, and three nominal boatmen, one of whom merely attempted to steer. With very long poles our unwieldy craft was pushed into the stream, and while the shore could be distinguished through the fog, made progress in a proper direction, though most crab-like was the movement. When fairly out of sight of land, the boatmen became alarmed and puzzled; but just then a large bell was heard tolling at Concepcion, which served to animate them, and to ensure our trying to go in the right direction. After an hour's unpleasant work, in a very cold morning, we landed about a mile below Concepcion, having started about as much above it on the opposite side. No time was then lost in galloping to Talcahuano, and going on board the Blonde, so that Captain Seymour's letter was delivered to Commodore Mason soon after ten.
I found that the commodore had engaged an American schooner to go in search of the crew of the Challenger; and that Mr. Usborne had been sent in her, with the second master of the Blonde,† three seamen of that ship, my coxswain, and the whale-boat which I took from the Beagle; she was a poor craft, and wretchedly found, though reputed to have sailed well, and to have been a fine vessel in her time. They left Talcahuano on the day after a gale from the north-west (on the 24th), which, by all accounts, was one of the severest that had been experienced during many years.
The Blonde sailed from Concepcion Bay on the 27th, the morning after I arrived; but unfortunately, during all that day, thick weather and half a gale of wind from the northward, prevented our having even one glimpse of the land, as we were running towards the entrance of the Leübu.
On the 29th, at daylight, the schooner Carmen was seen, and soon afterwards, through the haze, we made out Tucapel Head. At this time, neither Vogelborg (who was on board as local pilot) nor I, knew that the Heights of Tucapel Viejo were identical with the headland we recognized by the name of Tucapel Head. We both thought that Tucapel Viejo was in the bay where the river 'Lebo' is placed in the old Spanish charts. This error appears almost unaccountable to me now; though both he and I were then drawn into it by a variety of reasons unnecessary to detail here, and we therefore advised the commodore to run along-shore towards the supposed place of the Leübu (or Lebo), which he did; but the weather was so unfavourable, so thick and hazy, that nothing could be seen distinctly. Scarcely indeed could we discern the line of the surf, heavily as it was beating upon the shore; and at noon we were obliged to haul off, on account of wind and rain.
I should have mentioned that we spoke the schooner at eight in the morning, when Mr. Usborne said they had seen nothing in their run along-shore on the 26th, the only clear day they had had. After speaking us, he kept to the northward, intending, as we concluded, to close the land about Tucapel Head, and again run along-shore to the southward. In the haze we quickly lost sight of the schooner; but thinking that we should soon meet again in clearer weather, little notice was taken of this circumstance, which was afterwards so much regretted. Continual thick weather prevented any observations being taken, as well as the land from being seen.